Wardrobe Wednesday: M is for Mama

I had a job interview once with a school where I was doing some student teaching. I wasn’t especially interested in the school or the job, and they didn’t know if they were interested in me either, but I figured a practice interview with zero pressure couldn’t be a bad thing.

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Things were going smoothly until they asked me one little question: “Where did you work during high school?”

The thing was, I hadn’t worked anywhere, or even officially gone to high school, for that matter. I had tutored since age 15, when I started college (I was only 19 during this interview, though they didn’t know that), and I was currently working at my university’s Writing Center, helping fellow students with their papers and doing some Spanish tutoring on the side.

But when I told them I had never flipped a burger or sold a blouse, they were flabbergasted, maybe even a little miffed, as if my lack of experience in retail was a personal insult to their interview process.

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For my part, I was a little confused at how waiting tables would have taught me classroom management or how to better teach students to conjugate the past perfect tense.

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Not too surprisingly the job didn’t end up being a good fit for either of us.

But I think that experience remains imprinted upon my memory because of two emotions that I experienced as a result of it:

1) inadequacy

and

2) uncertainty

I didn’t feel like what I had done was impressive enough. And I got the impression that, impressive or not, the experience I did have wouldn’t be enough to prepare me for the future.

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Fast-forward three years.

I was working at my second public school already, teaching Spanish, ESL, and Sophomore AP English.

In general, the teaching profession is both underpaid and under-respected. But I found that, whenever anyone asked me what I did for a living, and I answered, “I teach high school Spanish, ESL, and AP English,” the reaction was usually one of both surprise (really? you, the young-looking ghostly white girl, speak Spanish?) and appreciation (Wow. I could never teach high-schoolers. And especially not a foreign language. I never got past, “Hola, mi nombre es…”).

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And I’m not going to lie—I liked that reaction a whole lot better than the crinkled brows and doubtful expressions of my interviewers.

 

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Fast-forward 2 1/2 more years.

I had two little boys, 18-months-apart, and I was juggling nursing a baby and chasing a toddler with teaching part time Spanish at a Christian private school.

I still got asked sometimes what I did for a living, especially when the boys weren’t with me, and my answer was the same as before (minus the ESL and English classes, of course).

And the whistles and nods of respect were the same.

Fast-forward 5 more years.

I am no longer a Spanish teacher. I am just a mama.

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No one asks me what I do for a living anymore, mostly because the answer is a bit too obvious as I charge through Walmart pushing one cart full of twins and groceries and dragging another behind me full of toddlers (well, just one) and toiletries.

There are raised eyebrows. There are whistles. Sometimes, there is even the gentle pressure of a hand on my arm and a murmured, “Bless your heart, Honey.” (Funny how no one feels compelled to touch you when they find out you’re a Spanish teacher).

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But it’s not the same. People may say things like, “I could never do that!” or “Kudos to you! I might die.” (How closely those words mirror my own thoughts from not that long ago). But my current “profession” isn’t exactly impressive by the world’s standards. And I get that. After all, it takes almost no talent to pop out a baby or five (and, yes, I realize that is like a poke in the eye to my sweet readers who are struggling to conceive, but I am speaking in generalities, not {painful} specifics). Lots of women do it all the time, with little or no previous experience or qualifications.

But rather than reassure me, that realization brings back those 19-year-old feelings of inadequacy (for my role in society) and uncertainty (that I count anymore).

Sometimes, although the mere thought of dealing with all the lesson planning and grading and teenage hormones makes my left eye start twitching, I wish I could still claim “Spanish teacher” on my resume so that, on the rare occasions when I have few enough children with me to warrant a, “What do you do?” my response can be something legitimate…something that requires skills and training and education.  The kind that comes with diplomas and official seals included.

At least now I can say that I’m a fitness instructor. (I don’t even bother with “blogger;” that would only confuse people around here). That seems to pique people’s interest (or at least prompt a head-to-toe onceover to see if I look the part).

But I don’t think that I’ve ever answered the inevitable, “Who are you” (because isn’t that what they’re really asking?) with, “I’m a Mama.” At least not without something (anything!) else tagged on the end.

And it got me thinking, “Why not?”

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After all, this morning alone, I have nursed twins, responded to a toddler screeching my name from her bed (a good 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off and a good hour before she had any business making a peep), changed multiple diapers, sewed up a rip in a pair of pants (which I then deposited on the waiting bare legs of a five-year-old because that’s how we roll), started loads of laundry, driven boys to school, procured juice and snacks, nursed babies (again), changed more diapers, and gotten three little girls down for their naps.

If that doesn’t scream, “I AM MAMA,” I don’t know what does. 

Oddly enough (or, perhaps, not), the more children I have, the more I’ve (mostly) grown to love it. More than anything else I’ve ever done. Even with the diaper explosions, and the constant snot on my shoulder, the 2 AM feedings, the tantrums, the phonics brain-blocks, and the inch-thick layer of cracker debris on my minivan’s floor.

So, why not just own it, even if not one single other person in the world ever seems impressed? After all, how can I “glory in Christ in my service to God” if I’m so caught up in what society thinks that service should look like? (Or, at the very least, what I think that society thinks it should look like).

I was muddling through this whole concept of motherhood as a profession one day when I walked into a little shop to buy something for my own mama and stumbled across a display covered with cute little brass initial necklaces. They were fresh out of “A’s,” and I almost kept walking until I spotted an “M.”

And I knew I had to buy it.

It was only $14, a fact which became painfully obvious when I forgot to take it off during a shower, and it immediately tarnished.

So, I asked for another, more durable version for Valentine’s Day.

And people started noticing when I wore it and asking me what the “M” stood for.

Then, Lisa Leonard offered to send me a piece of her gorgeous jewelry to wear and show off to you guys.

And I knew immediately that I wanted this beautiful pink quartz necklace with another “M” as both a fashion statement and a fortification of my new resolve to declare my current God-given identity.

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After all, no matter what other title I may hold in the future, I’m pretty sure it will never trump: Primary Caretaker for, Teacher of, and Foremost Determiner of the Wellbeing and Ultimate Life Outcome of Another Human Being (or 5).

So, now I wear both my “M’s” every chance I get. So that the next time someone asks me what the “M” stands for, I can reply with conviction and without apology:

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“M is for Mama.”

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58 thoughts on “Wardrobe Wednesday: M is for Mama

  1. I just found you on Pinterest and I will be following your blog. You are an adorable little doll and this post is wonderful. I was a stay at home Mom and 37 years ago that was a dirty word. I was so proud to be able to stay home with my children and of course be able to do all of the fun things you can do when you do not have to go into a job everyday. It was so sad for the people who looked down on me and it was so absurd of the people who thought I had a boring job. I cannot believe so little has changed. Now a days most families can not make it on one income I would think being a stay at home Mom would be a modern day status symbol. My daughter is a stay at home mom to a a two year old and an infant. She had a very successful career as a fashion designer and did not think twice about walking away. Her friends are so jealous. They live in NY city and are starting to struggle financially. I am praying they can make it work without her having to go back to work. Being a stay at home mom really is the best job on earth. I now work full time and would give anything to be able to do it over. Luckily just like you I cherished everyday and appreciated every minute. Keep up the great blogging.

  2. Beautiful pictures and thoughts! Thank you. It’s so hard to get my own head wrapped around that sometimes – being a Mama doesn’t equate with my Type A driven personality. But it shouldn’t matter – because it’s the most important thing I do.

  3. Browsing your blog from the pleated poppy. I am battling infertility, but I am really really enjoying our blog. love your style and taste (and the fact that it is conservative yet stylish). Look forward to reading more and your children are beautiful!!!

  4. thanks for reminding me what a privileged job i have… even through all the laundry, dishes, meals, messes, diapers, scrapes, homework, hair braiding, shoe finding, lunch packing, praying, loving, frustration, going crazy, exhaustion, teaching, refereeing, peace making and just being… i am privileged to be a mama. I really needed to be reminded of this. you have totally blessed me.

  5. Your post brings up a point that society as a whole, whether meaning to or not, puts pressure on people to “measure up” and “be someone”. Just look at the student loan crisis. Millions of young men and women are drowning in debt because society today them they needed to do something profound. They got advanced degrees imagining they would change the world and instead many work careers they are miserable in just to pay the rent (and get out of debt) with little or no hope they’ll succeed in their desired field. I think if really asked many women (in a sincere environment where they feel safe to answer) would choose “homemaker” or “mother” as a desired profession. I certainly would have! No one ever told me this was “okay”.

    I grew up believing you were a mom at home for a few years and then you went to work with the other moms whose kids were in school. “Homemaker” was the term for the sweet lady who came in and helped my great aunt bathe, make dinner, and work puzzles throughout the day. From the earliest days of school, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I felt like I was supposed to say “astronaut”, “teacher” or “engineer”. In fact, even as a little one in the 80s I can recall the little girls who answered “mama” as being reminded “You can do that and have a career too!” I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that; I’m just saying that for me, homemaker and mother were never presented as actual career choices a young lady could make.

    I went to college, I went to graduate school; I’ve got loans I need to pay off! Thinking back, I went to college because I was supposed to. I don’t regret college; what I regret are the unwise financial decisions I made that currently make me unable to even consider my real, dream career. My husband wants me to be a homemaker. He wants me to stay home with our children but that’s not financially viable right now. It breaks my heart to read on Christian blogs how a husband isn’t a real man if he isn’t letting me stay at home while he takes care of every financial need. My husband takes EXCELLENT care of us and I would never, ever expect him to take on the added financial stress of getting my debt down when I’m able to work and help out during the time we hope for children. I don’t love going to work everyday. Some people do. In my job I do get a lot of “Wow, that’s amazing how can you stand doing that for work! You must get paid so much!” The truth is, I would give it all up in a second to stay at home and do my work there as wife and mother.

    Basically, what I’m trying to say is we need to be teaching our young men and women that they don’t need to one-up each other in professions and try to work in a field that will enable them to buy a beach house and retire to it. We need to bring back homemaking and mother as a respected profession not just something someone does on the side. I know if someone had told me when I was younger “It’s okay, homemaking and taking pride in raising you family is a life’s work” and not added “But don’t *you* want to be a doctor too?” I would be in a very different place right now.

  6. Thank you for reaffirming what God has been speaking into my heart this week! I had a little break down with my ob/gyn yesterday talking about this exact thing! (Weird I know! But we work together and he reassured me that I wasn’t the first person to have a break down there! LOL!) Our situation right now doesn’t allow me to be a SAHM but it does allow me to trust in God’s plan! Thanks for sharing! Ps I might just have to get a little M for myself! :)

  7. I read all if your posts. Most of them seriously crack me up. I love to read about all your escapades. This one hit home for me, though. I am a registered nurse. But I stopped working when my two year old was born so I could stay home. Being a nurse gave me a legitimate sense of being ‘someone’. I loved when people asked me what I did. And I REALLY loved being a nurse, so stating home was a bit if a struggle at first. Your life becomes all about making sure everyone else gets what they need. That’s why I started blogging, to fulfill a need to have something for me. I Have two amazing boys and I wouldn’t trade staying home and being mama for anything. Your story makes me realize how far I’ve come. I couldn’t imagine my life the past two years any differently!

    Love the photos!!! You’re babies (all 5) are so beautiful!!
    XO,
    Christy

  8. I’ve been getting your blog updates for over a year now (I think). It all started when I was looking for curly-hair ideas before I went for a new cut, haha. (I love your hair by the way; mine is a very similar color and texture. I’ve taken your picture to my stylist a couple of times now. :-) ) I love your blog! I have to say, though, I think this one post made me cry the hardest of any of the heartfelt posts you’ve written! (Your husband and your sweet love story was up there, though. I adore my own hubby, so it was just really sweet to read). Anyway, I too was a teacher, up until I had my now 17-month-old son. I ultimately always wanted to be a stay at home mom, so when I, out of necessity, had to go back to work after I had my first (now 3-years-old), I was heart-broken. Thankfully, we were in a better spot financially after out second son was born, so my dream came true! What a change, though! My identity really was tied up in my profession of special education. I, like you, have felt like I should tag on “former teacher” to “stay at home mom”. What you wrote really resonated with me. I’m still getting teary-eyed when I think about it, and I read it yesterday. (This is my 5th attempt to leave a comment, haha. Is that a stay at home mommy thing or what?) I even told my husband about it when we were eating dinner last night. I tried to read the quote about his little hands stealing my heart, but I got too choked up. (I’m 4 1/2 months pregnant with baby boy #3, and I’m totally picturing that quote in a cool art piece in his nursery). Anyway, I’m rambling. I know what I want for Mother’s Day now. An “m” necklace in some form or another. I’ve been overwhelmingly thankful to stay home with my children, but you’ve inspired me to go a step further. You’ve inspired me to really be proud of my new calling, whether I’m sharing it with mom in a similar spot, or with one of my old colleagues. Thank you for being so open! And your family is beautiful!

  9. I’m pretty sure this is the BEST post you’ve ever written. Wear that “M” proudly! This Mama role is nothing short of fantastic and the greatest and most challenging blessing ever. I love how you mentioned that the more kids you have, the more you enjoy your role as Mom. I just had our 3rd, 2 weeks ago and I swear, I love being a Mom more now than ever. Yes, it’s more busy, but it suits me and this season with my little ones is such a gift.

    1. Why, thank you, Angela! It’s been on my heart to write a while now. And I love your perspective about this season being a gift. It’s pretty easy to want to wish this particular season of craziness away!

  10. I love telling people that I’m JUST a mom. Some of them stop dead in their tracks because they don’t know how to reply to my happy honesty.

    By the way, that picture of you and your little girl (the one of her back looking away from the camera) is absolutely gorgeous. <3

    1. Thanks for the compliments on that pic of me and Della (I liked it too :) ), and I am sure people do stop and stare when you tell them you’re just a mom. We need more of that!

  11. Wow! You read my mind! I taught for fifth grade for six years before I had my daughter and take a one year leave of absence. After my husband died suddenly, I made the decision to stay at home with my babe permanately because I couldn’t imagine how I was going to do everything my myself. I now substitute because the looks and comments that friends, family, and strangers give me make me feel like such a huge slacker! I just wish people would think that being a mom was enough. I mean someone has to raise children. I sometimes think that if more moms stayed home, the issues that arise in elementary school wouldn’t be so many. But, that’s just a thought!!!

    1. I love this! I was just telling my hubby this the other day – people really like kindergarten teachers. It would always get the awww so sweet! Now people are just confused when I say I stay home and babysit for a couple families. Even though I’ve only ever wanted to be a momma, I suddenly have this insecurity when I tell others!

    2. I understand that insecurity, but I also know it’s nobody’s fault but mine if I listen to Satan’s lies. I’ll be praying that you’re able to own your mama-profession with grace and confidence! : )

  12. I needed to hear this. Someone said to me earlier this week, “Well, you don’t work.” That is bull. Yes, I am at home with my children but I guarantee that I work 100 times harder that they do at their 9-5 job! It really hurt me and got me a little depressed. But I know deep down that what I am doing is important and I’ve decided to not let comments like that get me down again. I am a Mama and darn good one at that!

    1. Alicia, I definitely think that most people are not trying to be offensive when they make careless comments (I know that I make plenty of careless comments of my own that I wish I could take back), but you are definitely right that what you are doing is important!

  13. Beautiful family pictures! And I agree that our society DOESN’T value motherhood. Our society ALSO doesn’t value homeschooling, which is where I’m at now. But then again, our society DOES value accumulating as much “stuff” as we can possibly fit in our houses, and then, heck, why not just buy a larger house, lol! Hmmm…a bit twisted, perhaps?

    1. Sue, I homeschool my boys part time, but I happen to live in a part of the country that is big on homeschooling (at least more so than elsewhere), so I get very little flack for it. But I grew up as a “first generation” homeschooler, and I know what it’s like to get the weird stares and judgmental looks. Push through, Mama! If it’s what you know you’re called to do, it so worth it! :)

  14. absolutely beautiful story! Thank you for sharing. When people ask me who the most influential person in my life is, I always say my mom, and it is the truth. I cannot think of a better job to have than to be the most influential person in someone’s life.

    1. I say that same thing, and I love how you put that. That’s exactly what I think too (when I’m not listening to some goofy, “You should be doing more” lie in my head)

  15. absolutely!! i have always thot being a mama is the most noblest of all jobs. I yearn for the day i can say, “I’m just a momma” because that *just* should be in italics and not HAVE to be followed by anything else to validate anyone! i know when i was growing up people would ask me what i wanted to be i would tell them a wife and a momma, and they would act as tho it wasn’t enough. and it IS!! i bought into the lie and curved my thots and now i yearn to fulfill my previous dreams. be proud friend when i hear someone say, “oh i’m just a mom.” i picture them saying is as proudly and fiercely as the way some say “I am woman! hear me roar!” i know when i’m finally able to attain that i can’t wait to.thank you so much!!

  16. I love this! And it’s such perfect timing for me, too. I had a doctor appointment today and they put me down on the paperwork as being unemployed, and it just made me feel a little useless. But you’re right, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of being “just a mom”, I know why I’m doing it and that’s really what matters.

  17. Oh Abby – what a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your heart so openly and for speaking truth for us mamas. I always tell the children that we are not to live by feelings, but by the Word of God – we will always be defeated by those up and down joy-robbing emotions if we let them rule our days. If we have a firm foundation in understanding who we are in Christ, we will not be easily drawn into worrying what others think and instead be focused on giving glory to God in the ups and downs of our ordinary days.

  18. I have been sick with a chronic illness since I graduated college, and I cringe when people ask what I do. It is hard for me, I am not well, I cannot work, and I may not be well enough to have children someday. I always worry that people think that I am lazy or unimportant. I have a wonderful husband who loves me so much and the most selfless parents you could ever ask for. I was talking to my best friend a while back about how I feel and she blessed me so much. She explained to me that when I go and visit the elderly and shut-ins from our church and sing to them, that I am doing what matters for eternity. When I help with a pre-school program at our church on wed afternoon, that I am doing God’s work, and when I am home with the time to pray over others, that these are the things that really matter in life, and they are also the types of things that those out working wish they could do. So sometimes I wish I could claim that I was a momma because then I feel others wouldn’t look at me strange for not working. God created us each for a purpose and sometimes that has nothing to do with working. As my mom loves to say, “Bloom where you are planted.” :)

    1. Hi, I just wanted to confirm what your friend told you about people that work wish to do what you do. I work and even though my body is at the office, my heart is doing God’s work just like you are doing it… what you are doing it’s soooo precious… and you are NOT LAZY AT ALL… to have an illness and still do everything you do???? your actions are priceless, there is no appropiate tittle on earth for you!!!God bless you!!!

    2. I agree with Sandra, Susan (and way to be an encourager, Sandra!).

      The fact that you are choosing to spend your energy on others when you are ill is such an inspiration! I know there are so many who are blessed because of you!

  19. That was sugary sweet in the best way. You are a beautiful mother, inside and out. Momma is all I ever wanted to be, and though there are many days I feel like a failure, like I’m not measuring up to the kind of Momma I aspire to, the sweet whispers from my oldest daughter telling me how much I mean to her and squeezing me extra tight at night let me know that, at least to my three precious children, I am and always will be good enough.

  20. This is beautiful. The lack of value that our culture places on motherhood is so sad. It is one of the reasons why I do not have children. I have worked so hard for my career that I don’t want to give it up and I know that if I had children, I would want to stay home to raise them, and I would feel like less if I didn’t have a career as my identification. I think the feminist movement has contributed to the devaluation of motherhood. I certainly am grateful for those who made it possible for women to have a place in what were once male-only careers but I wonder if it’s gone too far the other way.

  21. Inspiring and uplifting! I, too, went from getting handshakes as a doctor (“Ooooo, how wonderful!”) to getting those apologetic arm pats(“Oh, bless your heart, dear. You need it”) as the Mom of four. Btw, my littlest are also twins! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love the quotes and beautiful photos of you and your children!

    1. See, and I think you would have it a lot harder than I do because the profession of doctor comes with so many more years of schooling. Not that that changes a thing about the role of mama being right for you (good for you!), but it would up the pressure.

      And yay for twins! :)

  22. It’s so hard not to get caught up in what society thinks is a respectable profession. While I am a pharmacist and I work 1 day/week….many people think that I have thrown my education away. Even had people say that I am wasting my education! Makes me so mad!!
    Raising my babies up the Lord and staying home with them will reap far & beyond what filling RX’s ever will! Staying home with them is my first & only true calling…and I am so very blessed to be able to do it.
    Your words are very true and I LOVE everything about this post. The pics of you & your kids are just priceless! You guys are all just adorbs. And that one with all 5 of them says to me….”Blessed beyond measure!!”…..Amen!
    Love the idea of the “M” necklace….just perfect! I want one for me :)

    1. I know that must be hard to hear that you’re “wasting” anything by lavishing your time on your little sweeties. I’m just so glad you know better!
      Oh, and I say get yourself an M necklace too if you want one. We could start a club! :)

    1. Charity, while in general our society isn’t terribly impressed with mamas, my main point is less about what society thinks and more about what I think about what society thinks (why should I care when I know it’s my calling?). So good for you to be excited at such a great job title. And thanks for the r-e-s-p-e-c-t! :)

  23. Wiping the tears from my eyes. This ministered to me in so many ways! I’ve been struggling with this exact thought for many days now, unable to put it into words on my own blog. When asked what I do, I usually say “In my former life, I was a teacher, and a business owner, and a fitness instructor. And now I stay at home with my boys.” And the other day, in the dentist chair, the hygienist (a new mom herself) said, “So, are you ever gonna, ya know… get a JOB?” Oh boy. What an awful thing to feel like we have to justify ourselves and our callings to others.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. I’ll be linking this to my own blog later, assuming that’s alright with you.

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